Germ Theory: Medical Pioneers in Infectious Diseases by Robert GaynesJust as the economists and policy makers are looking back to the depression to develop policies to relieve us from our current economic woes, we should examine the history of infectious diseases. This historical review details the lives of 12 men and one woman who were pioneers of our current conceptual framework of infectious diseases. Included are individuals whose contributions were essential to understanding the origins of our approach to the practice of infectious diseases. These reexaminations provide lessons and, perhaps, some hope as we are forced to look introspectively towards our own practice of infectious diseases.
- Details the lives of 12 men and one woman who were pioneers of our current conceptual framework of infectious diseases
- Appreciates how major contributions were made by some of the greatest doctors in history
- Reconsiders our approaches to the practice of infectious diseases
How a few scientists transformed the way we think about disease - Tien Nguyen
Germ theory of disease
The germ theory of disease states that microorganisms— organisms that, with only one known exception, are too small to be seen without the aid of a microscope—are the cause of many diseases. The microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and protozoa. The germ theory of disease also states that the microbes that cause a disease are capable of being recovered and will cause the same disease when introduced into another creature. This theory has withstood scientific scrutiny for centuries. Indeed, it is known with certainty that many diseases are caused by microorganisms. Two examples are anthrax, which is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis , and bacterial meningitis, which is caused by Neisseria meningitidis. While now an accepted part of infectious disease microbiology and the foundation of a variety of disciplines, such as hygiene and epidemiology the study of the origin and spread of infections , the exact reasons why some microbes cause disease remain poorly understood and are still being investigated.
The germ theory of disease is the currently accepted scientific theory for many diseases. It states that microorganisms known as pathogens or "germs" can lead to disease. These small organisms, too small to see without magnification, invade humans, other animals, and other living hosts.
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I am afraid that the experiments you quote, M. Pasteur, will turn against you.
Perhaps the overarching medical advance of the 19th century, certainly the most spectacular, was the conclusive demonstration that certain diseases, as well as the infection of surgical wounds, were directly caused by minute living organisms. This discovery changed the whole face of pathology and effected a complete revolution in the practice of surgery. The idea that disease was caused by entry into the body of imperceptible particles is of ancient date. Everything must have a parent, he wrote; only life produces life. A 19th-century pioneer in this field, regarded by some as founder of the parasitic theory of infection, was Agostino Bassi of Italy, who showed that a disease of silkworms was caused by a fungus that could be destroyed by chemical agents. The main credit for establishing the science of bacteriology must be accorded to French chemist Louis Pasteur.
Jemima Hodkinson explores germ theory and two of the scientists behind it: Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. In the 19th century, improvements in microscope technology enabled a generation of microbiologists to investigate further the world of previously unseen disease-causing organisms. Many of these scientists carried out research that contributed towards the formation of the germ theory. However, scientific proof of the theory was the achievement of two European scientists: Louis Pasteur, a Frenchman, and Robert Koch, who was German. Pasteur was a chemist: his early research focused on the study of crystals. But when he took up the post of head of the Science Faculty in Lille in , he was inundated with demands from the local wine industry for him to research the science of fermentation.
Distributed under a creative commons licence. Proving the germ theory of disease was the crowning achievement of the French scientist Louis Pasteur. Pasteur set out to understand the fermentation process, and soon realised that alcohol in wine was produced by yeast which lived on the skins of grapes. During fermentation the yeast appeared healthy and budding under a microscope, but lactic acid was formed and the wine turned to vinegar when other microbes were seen among the yeast cells. Further analysis of the wine showed a number of complex organic molecules, some of which were able to rotate light, a property of compounds produced by living organisms.